Fleche Wallonne: Bunch Sprint?!

Embedded image permalinkIt's my favourite Ardennes Classic: short, straight, shocking with its super steep finish in Huy. The Mur to be climbed three times. It's all about Huy, as they say. And I climbed it once, yes I did... on foot! it was hard even that way. The atmosphere was hot, warmed by beer and cycling fans excitement. The temperature was cold instead: it was a gray day, fortunately dry. Andy Schleck was working for his brother Frank but it didn't work that well. It was 2010. The year before, 2009, in my personal Andy Schleck's Palmares I have a victory scored here: Andy got defeated only by the doper Davide Rebellin. By the way Davide Rebellin is still racing in these Ardennes Classics while Andy Schleck retired... Second behind Di Luca, second behind Rebellin, second behind Contador, second behind Gilbert... you get fed up even without two serious crashes...
Embedded image permalinkAnyway the weather is good this year in the Fleche, sunny and warm, spring in full swing like in 2011 when I went watching my second Liège and Andy Schleck retired in the Fleche due to pollen allergy: the ground was yellow with pollen in the small railstation on my way to the press conference in Francorchamp. 
On its way it's also the race, toward Huy, thinking of it with eagerness, fear or desire. There is a break-away including good climbers like Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Mike Teunissen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo), Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Jérôme Baugnies (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Reinier Honig (Team Roompot), Daniele Ratto (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), and Pieter Vanspeybrouck. They had 2'55 after 18km and now, after almost 30 the gap is 7'35". 
They think of Huy but it isn't the only hill to climb - just the steeppest and the last one  - The Côte des 36 Tournants (2.9 km, 4.8% average gradient) is the first one, after 19 km. The second one is the Côte de Bellaire, after 91 km. Nothing yet, absoluting nothing. Beautiful, sweet, green and blue Belgian landscape.
Côte de Bohissau (2.4 km, 5.5% average) then the first passage on the Mur de Huy. Aproacing it a big crash: Tiago Machado (Katusha) touches wheels with Martin and brought him down with him. Many riders fell or had to stop. Bike change for Dan Martin and back to the bunch.
Next hill is the Côte d'Ereffe: 2.1 km long and 5% average. 
Anna Van Der Breggen
(Rabobank Liv) wins solo the female Fleche but we can see it only on recorded image, few minutes later and after a large vocal protest on the net. What a shame again! 
59.3km to go the gap is down to 4’51” for the break-away.  Côte de Bellaire again: 1 km long and 6.3% average gradient. Homig and Teunissen lose the wheels. Team Sky is pulling the peloton. Michal Kwiatkowski is also spotted in front. 
Embedded image permalinkHeading to the 7th climb of the day - the 2nd ascent of the Côte de Bohissau: 2.4 km long, 5.5% average - another crash brings down Gilbert (BMC), Jones (UnitedHealthcare), Jungels and Arredondo (Trek). The Belgian looks bad, tries to get back on bike but finally stops: race over for him. Jones gets straight on the team car. Bob Jungels retires too but slowly rides to the finish. Arredondo retired too.
45 km to go Homig and Teunissen get caught. Another crash and several riders are spotted into a ditch: Nordhaug, Moinard, Poels, Roux... Second ascent of the Mur de Huy, another crash again: Jelle Vanendert sits on the sidewalk waiting for the team car while Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) looks in pain. Both had to stop. On the Mur: in front Pieter Vanspeybroeck gets dropped and Baugnies takes the lead, behind the first attacks with Luis Leon Sanchez and Giovanni Visconti who gain a gap and bridge to Daniele Ratto. Their advantage is a slight 21''.
29 km to go, three hills to climb: Côte d'Ereffe, Côte de Cherave and Mur de Huy for the last time
19 km to go Ratto dropped. Sanchez setting the pace, Van Garderen attacks from the peloton.
16.7km to go, gap 22”. Visconti and Sanchez are the only two ahead, van Garderen trying to bridge with Vervaeke and Baugnies. Bougnis dropped 13 km to go. All caught excluded Visconti and Sanchez.
12 km to go another crash! including also Chris Froome (Sky) who looks bad, still he's riding. Samuel Sanchez (BMC), Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and three IAM Cycling riders also went down.
Côte de Cherave: 1.3 km long with an average gradient of 8.1%. It's new in the race, meant to make it harder and less predictable. 6 km to go and the race explodes: Nibali attacks, Kreuziger responds, then Tim Wellens gets a gap and only Caruso follows. Top and fast descent. 2 km to go Caruso caught. 
Mur de Huy: Wellens caught. Nobody attacks and Valverde wins in a bunch sprint.


Alejandro Valverde:
“It was really a very hard day, with lots of crashes and lots of tension. I can’t remember such a tense day for a long time. It was a very hard climb, a good climb for me. I controlled the race a lot: I had Visconti in the break and then I decided to keep the rhythm steady and up the pace at the end. At 200 metres to go, I knew I was going to win, because I had the spark to give it a bit more.”
Embedded image permalink
Julian Alaphilippe:
"This is my first time racing Flèche and I had never done the Mur de Huy before. I'm surprised and happy about my 2nd place after a strong team performance today. My goal was to help Michal Kwiatkowski be in the top positions before the Mur de Huy. The Côte de Cherave created a tense finale. A lot of riders wanted to attack there. My job was to follow the attacks in support of Michal. A big bunch showed up on the Mur de Huy, which was a different scenario compared to previous years. As a team we did a great job surrounding Michal and controlling the attacks of the day. On the Mur de Huy I found myself very well positioned at the front. I had great legs on the climb and the nature of the Mur de Huy makes it difficult to contest the finale if you are not in front. So my Sport Director told me to just go for the victory as I was in great position with good condition. I did everything I could, but I saw Alejandro Valverde was in front and on this steep climb there was just no way to close the gap. He deserved the victory today. I'm still a young rider trying to gain experience and am happy that I can be there to both help my teammate, and also try if there is an opportunity for myself in the finale. One day I'd like to try and win these kinds of races, which I love. I will carry on and keep learning from both my teammates and the peloton around me. Now we will focus on Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It's another race I've never done before, so I am curious about it.  I will see the parcours for the first time on Friday during recon and I am super excited. I hope to play an important role in the team strategy to help Michal in the front so the team can be able to contest the finish." 

Michal Kwiatkowski:
"Today the team did a great job to put me in front the entire day, but unfortunately I couldn't finish really well. Probably I paid a little bit for all the emotions after the victory of Amstel Gold Race. It was really a big moment, and the emotions that followed it had a big impact on me. I think mentally I'm still adjusting to what I accomplished. In any case the team found a way to be on the podium with a strong Alaphilippe. He had a strong performance and it was only his first time. He closed all the attacks on the second-to-last climb. He did a great job for me and in the final he still found the legs to contest the race. He was 2nd, so we are very proud of him. We are doing really well as a team and we hope to finish the Ardennes Classics with a top finish at Liege-Bastogne-Liege." 

Michael Albasini:
“The Mur de Huy is a climb that suits me. This race is also my chance to go for a result because at Amstel (Gold) Race and Liege, I am mostly there as a teammate for Simon Gerrans or Michael Matthews.
As my chance, I have to be good today.
Valverde is one of the strongest guys in this kind of finish. You never know (if you can beat him), you always have to try. I was closer than ever maybe, but it still wasn’t possible today.”

Wilco Kelderman:
"Short and steep climbs suit me.
It’s nice to have them racing again after some injuries. They’ve had some setbacks, but they’re fit again. I think we’re heading in the right direction with the team. Everything will fall into place again.
Unfortunately, Tom Leezer crashed hard. That was quite a shock.”

Robert Gesink:
“I’m happy to be back, I’m feeling like a cyclist again. 
This was all I could do today after a long period without races, but I'm happy with my level. The hard work paid off. My knee feels good, but I still miss some power. My knee feels good, but I still miss some power.
During the first kilometres, when the side-winds split the pack, I wasn’t able to keep the wheel of the rider in front of me. That’s never happened to me before as professional. I’m quite tough, though, and when the rest of the riders were weakened, I was able to follow.”

Paul Martens:
"I closely survived the first 3crashes and then the last one in the final was unavoidable.So dangerous today,but that's cycling nowadays.
I don't have to much pain,so Liege is not in danger.Good to see W1lco Kelderman was top10 today,team spirit was superb again."

Jelle Vanendert: 
“Just as  in the Amstel Gold Race I hit my right elbow. It’s never good when you crash two times in a few days, but there’s not too much damage. I had a good feeling in the race and was always riding in front on the climbs. I was convinced it was possible to set a good result, unfortunately I crashed.”

Thomas De Gendt: 
“I was one of the riders in the team who had to try to join a breakaway, so the teams of the favourites had to work. The composition of the front group was good. I was happy Jérôme Baugnies was one of the escapees as well, he goes all the way. The cooperation went smoothly and we had a maximal lead of eight minutes. On the climbs it was obvious which riders were the strongest in front. We were left with five after the second ascent of the Côte de Bellaire. Later, that group fell apart and Sánchez and Visconti bridged to the front. When I noticed Louis had jumped away from the peloton I decided to wait and help him.”

Tim Wellens:
“The plan was that I should attack on the Côte de Cherave or just before and Jelle Vanendert would wait until the last ascent of the Mur de Huy. It was a pity that Jelle had to leave the race. I decided to stick to the plan because I can’t compete with the explosive riders in the peloton. I know the course really well, the descent of the Côte de Cherave suits me. It went well until the first part of the Mur de Huy, but with 900 metres to go I felt my legs got weaker; 300 metres further I was reeled in. This attempt wasn’t intended to show myself, but I aimed for the victory. It gives me confidence for Liège-Bastogne-Liège that I was in a position in which it was possible to win. I often train on the course of the Flèche Wallonne and it’s no far from my home town Sint-Truiden. Many fans came to support me along the route, that was great.”

Embedded image permalinkChris Froome:

"#HappyEarthDay unfortunately I chose to eat some of it today... C'est la vie! #FlecheWalllonne"

Bob Jungels: 
“First of all I was feeling really, really good today. I had nice legs and we were about to start the climb where I wanted to attack. I think I was in the top 10 when it happened. [Philippe] Gilbert was just in front of me and I flew over him.
It’s always a super, super nervous race, and I think today was special because it was easy in the bunch because everything was controlled so everyone was fresh.  In the end you can’t blame anyone [for the crash], but sometimes there are a few riders that take too much risk. We were going pretty fast so I am lucky to escape with just scrapes and bruises. Everything is good - I will be ready for Sunday.”

Embedded image permalinkBauke Mollema:
“This race is always stressful and so many bad roads and everyone is always waiting for the last climb.  This new climb made it harder in the final, and I liked it. Fabio [Felline] did such a great job to bring me in perfect position for the second to last climb - and also again for the last climb - but then I screwed it up on the bottom. I got caught behind the guys from the break going backwards and I wanted to pass on the right, but it wasn’t possible, and I had to brake and I lost maybe 30 places there. It was my mistake.
I had good legs, and in this race it is so important to have a good position in the last 500 meters, and yeah, [on the Côte de Cherave] is where it went wrong today. But the good thing is I felt better than I did in Amstel Gold Race, so for Sunday I hope to make it up for this week.”

1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha
5 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha
6 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky
8 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
9 Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
11 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:08
12 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:10
13 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team
14 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:13
15 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
16 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement 0:00:16
17 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling
18 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
19 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:19
20 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
21 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
22 Steve Morabito (Swi) FDJ.fr
23 Ben Hermans (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:22
24 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:00:23
25 Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
26 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin
27 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky
28 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida 0:00:28
29 Rudy Molard (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:30
30 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:36
31 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
32 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Tinkoff-Saxo
33 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:38
34 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:42
35 Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:43
36 Michel Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot 0:00:51
37 Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:53
38 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
39 Serge Pauwels (Bel) MTN - Qhubeka 0:00:57
40 Jan Bakelants (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:09
41 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team 0:01:16
42 Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Lampre-Merida 0:01:19
43 Floris De Tier (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:01:32
44 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:37
45 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:01:39
46 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Team Katusha 0:01:47
47 Marco Minnaard (Ned) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 0:01:54
48 Luis Angel Mate (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
49 Francis De Greef (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
50 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
51 Huub Duijn (Ned) Team Roompot
52 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:02:00
53 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:01
54 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:02:02
55 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement 0:02:05
56 Carlos Betancur (Col) AG2R La Mondiale
57 Stéphane Rossetto (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
58 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing
59 Larry Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling
60 Jan Polanc (Slo) Lampre-Merida
61 Marco Canola (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
62 Simon Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge
63 Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
64 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka 0:02:12
65 Marc De Maar (Ned) Team Roompot
66 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:16
67 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Team Europcar
68 Sander Armee (Bel) Lotto Soudal
69 Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:02:19
70 Maurits Lammertink (Ned) Team Roompot
71 Eduardo Sepulveda (Arg) Bretagne-Séché Environnement 0:02:22
72 Stephen Cummings (GBr) MTN - Qhubeka 0:02:27
73 Thomas Sprengers (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise
74 Florian Vachon (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement
75 José Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:43
76 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
77 Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Team Katusha
78 Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 0:02:50
79 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:02:56
80 Tiago Machado (Por) Team Katusha 0:03:29
81 Manuele Boaro (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:03:33
82 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo
83 Yannick Eijssen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
84 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:03:45
85 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team Roompot 0:03:58
86 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:04:03
87 Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:04:46
88 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:04:49
89 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale 0:05:44
90 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:05:47
91 Valerio Conti (Ita) Lampre-Merida
92 Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step
93 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky
94 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica GreenEdge 0:05:50
95 Caleb Fairly (USA) Team Giant-Alpecin
96 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:05:53
97 Nathan Haas (Aus) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:06:24
98 Jose Rodolfo Serpa (Col) Lampre-Merida
99 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:07:11
100 Michal Golas (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step
101 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:07:19
102 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:07:59
103 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team
104 Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:08:03
105 Sergey Lagutin (Rus) Team Katusha
106 Maxime Bouet (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
107 Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement
108 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Team Europcar
109 Pieter Serry (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step
110 Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN - Qhubeka 0:08:08
111 Alex Howes (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
112 Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:17
113 Laurent Didier (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:08:22
114 Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert 0:08:46
115 Mike Terpstra (Ned) Team Roompot 0:09:10
116 Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement 0:09:40
117 Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement
118 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
119 Preben Van Hecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise
120 Patrick Schelling (Swi) IAM Cycling
121 Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 0:09:52
122 Petr Vakoc (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:10:57
123 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:12:19
124 Angelo Tulik (Fra) Team Europcar 0:13:18
125 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:13:20
126 Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Trek Factory Racing
127 Bryan Nauleau (Fra) Team Europcar 0:13:28
128 Songezo Jim (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:13:42
129 Davide Frattini (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 0:13:51
130 Daniele Ratto (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling 0:14:27
131 Frederico Zurlo (Ita) UnitedHealthcare
132 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:17:46
133 Reinier Honig (Ned) Team Roompot 0:18:02
DNF Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team
DNF Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
DNF Matej Mohoric (Slo) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
DNF Benjamin King (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
DNF Rein Taaramae (Est) Astana Pro Team
DNF Philip Deignan (Irl) Team Sky
DNF Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
DNF Dmitrii Kozonchuk (Rus) Team Katusha
DNF Lars Petter Nordhaug (Nor) Team Sky
DNF Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky
DNF Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
DNF Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar Team
DNF Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team
DNF Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky
DNF Romain Hardy (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Laurent Pichon (Fra) FDJ.fr
DNF Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ.fr
DNF Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ.fr
DNF Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FDJ.fr
DNF Clement Chevrier (Fra) IAM Cycling
DNF Jonathan Fumeaux (Swi) IAM Cycling
DNF Pirmin Lang (Swi) IAM Cycling
DNF Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling
DNF Arthur Van Overberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNF Otto Vergaerde (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise
DNF Jérôme Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar
DNF Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Cheng Ji (Chn) Team Giant-Alpecin
DNF Clément Venturini (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Simone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNF Boris Dron (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
DNF Andreas Stauff (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka
DNF Jay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka
DNF Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra) Bretagne-Séché Environnement
DNF Jesper Asselman (Ned) Team Roompot
DNF Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
DNF Lucas Euser (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
DNF Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
DNF Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
DNF Yohan Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
DNF Perrig Quemeneur (Fra) Team Europcar
DNF Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
DNF Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
DNF Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
DNF Julian Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing
DNF Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing
DNF Calvin Watson (Aus) Trek Factory Racing
DNF Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Merida
DNF Sébastien Minard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
DNF Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
DNF Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal
DNF Olivier Le Gac (Fra) FDJ.fr
DNF Romain Guillemois (Fra) Team Europcar
DNF Fredrik Ludvigsson (Swe) Team Giant-Alpecin
DNF Thomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
DNF Bertjan Lindeman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
DNF Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
DNF Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica GreenEdge

No comments: